• Trump Gotta Trump
• Trump's Tax Returns Will Remain Secret for a Little While Longer
• Iowa Is Your New COVID-19 Hotspot
• Trump Trying Desperately to Salvage Big Ten Football Season
• Presidential Health Under the Microscope
• Social Security Is in Danger
• Today's Presidential Polls
• Today's Senate Polls
The good people of Massachusetts headed to the polls on Tuesday, largely to sort out several different Democratic primaries. It would seem that the status quo is fine and dandy with folks in the Bay State, as they handed easy wins to all the high-profile incumbents.
The marquee matchup of the night was the Democratic Senate primary between Sen. Ed Markey and Rep. Joe Kennedy III. Kennedy came bursting out of the gate when he declared, with polls giving him an edge as large as 16 points. However, you don't last four decades in politics, as Markey has, without learning a few things about how to campaign. Further, Kennedy never made much of a case for booting a fairly popular and effective incumbent, beyond "I wanna be a senator!" and "Did I mention my last name is Kennedy?" And so, Markey won handily, 55.5% to 44.5%. It's the first time a Kennedy has ever lost an election in Massachusetts, and Politico is calling this "the end of the Kennedy dynasty." We're skeptical, since Kennedy III could take a run at Sen. Elizabeth Warren's (D-MA) seat if Joe Biden wins and appoints her to the cabinet, or he might try to reclaim a seat in the House in 2022. And even if he retires from politics, there are still an awful lot of Kennedys running around.
Meanwhile, there were also two progressive challenges that came up short. Rep. Richard Neal (D) in MA-01 is not terribly popular with the left wing of the Democratic Party, in part because he botched the situation with Donald Trump's tax returns, and in part because he's seen as being a little too cozy with business interests, and thus an obstacle to serious healthcare reform (a process the Representative has much power over, by virtue of his role as Chair of the Ways and Means Committee). Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse (D) mounted a solid challenge from the left, but was targeted with some shady ratfu**ing, and so came up short, 59% to 41%.
Also facing a challenge from the left was Rep. Stephen Lynch (D) in MA-08, who is gunning for his 10th term. In this case, the challenger was Dr. Robbie Goldstein, an infectious disease specialist who ran his entire campaign based on healthcare. Lynch is pretty conservative on that issue, and was one of the few Democrats to vote against Obamacare, whereas Goldstein would like a single-payer system along the lines of what Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has proposed. Lynch had no problem fighting off Goldstein; the final tally was 66% to 34%.
Inasmuch as the last time Massachusetts elected a Republican representative was 1994 (Peter Blute and Peter Torkildsen), and the last time it elected a Republican senator in a regular election was 1972 (Edward Brooke), Tuesday's Democratic primaries are, de facto, the general election. The only drama really remaining is who will win the right to succeed Kennedy III in MA-04; that race was too close to call on Tuesday night, with progressive Jesse Mermell and centrist Jake Auchincloss in a virtual tie with 22% of the vote each. That one won't be settled for several days, while we wait for absentee ballots to be counted. (Z)
There are lots of post-RNC items out there like this one from Politico, headlined "A GOP election dilemma: Twitter Trump keeps boxing out humanized Trump." The subhead adds: "After the RNC, some Republicans want a little more of Melania Trump's softer tone and a little less of Donald's hard edge."
We said this in passing yesterday, but now let's say it more directly: This is dumb, and anyone who feels this way has no business calling themselves a professional political operative. First of all, Trump is who he is. He has never been able to "reinvent" himself for more than a few days, and expecting him to do so now is like expecting a tiger to change its stripes. Second, even if Trump did yield to a "makeover" of his image, he's been a public figure for 50 years. And the whole time, he's been exactly who he is right now. There is no voter, at this point, who is going to buy into a "New Trump." The Donald has risen to the highest office in the land by going with his gut above all else, and being his authentic self. As a purely tactical matter, he is absolutely correct to stick with that. You don't change horses midstream.
It is clear that the President agrees entirely with this assessment, as he's definitely been in "Classic Trump" mode since the RNC ended (albeit a particularly intense/unhinged version). On Monday, we noted his Twitter activity over the weekend, which was most certainly not "kinder, gentler Trump" stuff. Meanwhile, Monday evening, Trump sat for an interview with Fox News' Laura Ingraham, and was in full conspiratorial mode. He declared, first of all, that "dark shadows" are controlling Joe Biden. Who knows what that even means? Maybe dementors?
The President also embraced a conspiracy theory that's been kicking around Facebook for a few months, that an airplane "almost completely loaded with thugs, wearing these dark uniforms, black uniforms, with gear and this and that" was en route to disrupt the Republican Convention. He did not explain what happened to this plane; perhaps they don't follow the news and they accidentally landed in Jacksonville. In any case, even Ingraham didn't know what to say, which is quite the accomplishment.
On Tuesday, Trump made his trip to Kenosha, WI, ignoring requests that he stay away. It went exactly as you might expect: He had trouble finding someone to pose for a photo-op, and had to manufacture one. He spoke glowingly of law enforcement, and announced $1 million in funding for the Kenosha police department, while denying that the U.S. has any issues with systemic racism. He traded barbs with the family of Jacob Blake, and lambasted the media. We could have written this paragraph on Monday, and we likely wouldn't have needed to edit it one bit.
In short, Trump continues to stick to the script in the sense that there is no script and never will be. He's an improviser who does what comes naturally to him at this moment in time, and who worries not at all about the implications tomorrow, next week, or next month. Republican operatives who keep wishing for something different would do better to invest their energy in searching for a unicorn. Then, they might actually be successful. (Z)
When it comes to keeping his tax returns secret, Donald Trump has suffered a near-unbroken string of losses, as judge after judge has decided they are not buying what the President's lawyers are selling. On Tuesday, however, he finally got a victory, albeit a limited one. By a 2-1 margin, a three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York agreed that Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance cannot have the documents he wants (8 years of tax returns, plus other stuff) until the appeals process has fully played out.
At the moment, arguments with the Court of Appeals (en banc) are scheduled for Sept. 25, with a ruling coming sometime in October. Assuming Trump loses there—and he almost certainly will, because his arguments are not strong—then his lawyers can go back to the Supreme Court. SCOTUS already weighed in once, and is likely not interested in doing so again.
All of these machinations mean that the odds of Trump's tax returns seeing the light of day before the election—already a very long longshot—have dropped to near zero. That said, there was really no expectation of public disclosure even before Tuesday's ruling, since even if Vance gets the documents he wants, by law he has to keep them secret. The real issue here is whether or not the President gets prosecuted for financial crimes, beginning sometime in 2021. And the odds remain high that he will be, even if it takes a few weeks (or months) longer than expected to get the process started. (Z)
Each week, each state gets an evaluation of its COVID-19 status. And this week, Iowa got some unhappy news. They are currently doing worse than any other state when it comes to containing the pandemic, with a 77.4% increase in cases in the last week. This is far and away the highest figure in the country, and is being fueled by outbreaks in both rural and urban areas.
Because there is no real historical analog for COVID-19, we do not know exactly what the political impact of this sort of news will be. We do know that Gov. Kim Reynolds (R-IA) has taken a generally hands-off approach to the pandemic (e.g., no mask mandates, relatively few limits on public interactions) and is a staunch Donald Trump supporter, so much so she spoke at the RNC last week. We also know that Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), another Trump foot soldier, is in the fight of her life right now, and appears to be slightly trailing Democratic challenger Theresa Greenfield. Meanwhile, Trump himself is in some danger of losing the state; nearly all polls have him with a razor-thin lead of 1-2 points, which is within the margin of error. Between this and the trade wars, it's at least possible the Hawkeye State is gonna be blue in November. (Z)
Currently, there are two major college football conferences whose 2020 season is on hold. One of those is the Pac-12, whose member schools are mostly located in blue or bluish states—you know, the ones where the streets are paved with used heroin needles, and there are roving gangs of criminals, and sanctuary cities, and transgender bathrooms, and an endless supply of Godless Commies, and so forth. The other is the Big Ten, whose member schools are located in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Minnesota, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Maryland. That list has a whole lot of swing states. You can guess which of the two conferences Donald Trump cares about and which one could sink into the Pacific Ocean without him noticing.
The return of Big Ten football would actually serve two different purposes for Trump. The first is that it would send the message, emphasized over and over during the RNC, that things are basically back to normal, and all is well. The second is that football is a big driver of the economies of the various communities where stadiums are located. So, while he was en route to Kenosha on Tuesday, Trump made a call to Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren to try to cajole him into reversing the decision to postpone. As an added inducement, the President reportedly offered Warren access to the national stockpile of rapid-COVID-19 tests.
If Donald Trump were Barack Obama or George W. Bush or Bill Clinton, we might meaningfully debate this offer. On one hand, those tests are clearly meant for key personnel, like frontline medical professionals and first responders. On the other hand, there's something to be said for giving people something to lift their spirits in a dark time, not to mention doing whatever possible to get local economies going again. This is why, for example, Franklin D. Roosevelt made certain that Major League Baseball continued operations during World War II.
However, this is Donald Trump we're talking about. And nobody can seriously doubt that his only consideration here is "What is best for Donald Trump?" Maybe, by using the COVID-19 tests as a de facto bribe, he will sell the Big 10 on a change in course. If so, that could win him some votes in some key states. On the other hand, this isn't the decision of the Big 10 commissioner, it's the decision of the university presidents/chancellors. They did not make their choice lightly, and they are going to take note of things like the spike in cases in Iowa (see above), as well as the fact that dozens of football teams that have played on have experienced major COVID-19 outbreaks. So, the deciders here will be very, very leery. On the other hand, football games bring in a lot of money and alumni (some of whom donate to their alma mater) like them. Whatever happens, time is short for a season to take place in fall, so we'll know the outcome within a week or so. (Z)
For a president who was older at their first inauguration than any of his predecessors, the American people know shockingly little about the health of Donald Trump. There's the letter from Dr. Harold Bornstein, which didn't pass the smell test when it was first made public, and which the doctor later confirmed to be a fake. There have been a few physicals that were cursory, and generated apparently falsified results (for example, shaving pounds off Trump's weight to keep him from a BMI in the "obese" range). And that's about all we have.
Meanwhile, there have been more than a few worrisome signs, from moments where Trump seemed to have trouble maintaining his train of thought, to the infamous issues with the glass of water and the ramp at West Point. And, most concerning of all was the mystery visit to Walter Reed, which was clearly for some purpose other than the one Trump gave (he said it was to get an early start on his annual physical).
Thanks to the new book from New York Times reporter Michael Schmidt, in which it is revealed that Mike Pence was "on standby" during the Walter Reed visit, questions about Trump's health are once again at the forefront. The theory du jour is that the President suffered a series of mini-strokes, and that is what prompted his visit to Walter Reed. This theory has achieved wide enough circulation, thanks largely to Matt Drudge, that Trump felt the need to address it on Twitter:
It never ends! Now they are trying to say that your favorite President, me, went to Walter Reed Medical Center, having suffered a series of mini-strokes. Never happened to THIS candidate - FAKE NEWS. Perhaps they are referring to another candidate from another Party!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 1, 2020
It's very interesting that he felt the need to clarify who "your favorite President" is.
In any event, Trump clearly recognizes that this is an area of weakness for him, since if he is reelected and serves his full term, he will leave office as the oldest president ever (surpassing Ronald Reagan, who exited at the age of 77 years, 349 days). He's not the type to tell the truth when a lie will do, but he may just be compelled to provide an accounting of what happened at Walter Reed, accompanied by actual evidence. Otherwise, it could hurt him if the Democrats make it into a talking point. The Biden campaign probably can't do so, since health concerns are also a concern for the Democratic nominee. However, it is something surrogates might make a point of bringing up. Similarly, the Lincoln Project has already made an ad on this subject, and they could certainly make a few more. (Z)
This week, for those employers who have decided to play along, Donald Trump's "suspension" of payroll taxes goes into effect. At the moment, he's relying on (dubious) authority that allows him to suspend taxes for up to four months in times of national emergency. There is no question that he will try to extend the window when the four months is up, assuming he cannot wipe out payroll taxes entirely.
This is a very clear attempt to buy some people's votes with their own money (while, as an added bonus, potentially saving Trump a chunk of change in his capacity as an employer). However, Social Security is literally the single most popular federal program extant, and the President is playing with fire here. Given Congress' habit of raiding the Social Security trust fund, the system relies on a regular infusion of new cash. And if that cash is cut off, the effects will come far faster than most people realize. By the middle of 2021, the money for disability benefits would dry up. By 2023, all benefits would come to an end.
The economic effects of this would be nothing short of disastrous (pandemic or no). If tens of millions of Americans were suddenly left impoverished, that would impose enormous burdens on children and grandchildren, and would also remove a vast number of consumers and renters from the economy. Workers nearing retirement age would hold onto their jobs as long as is possible, instead of clearing the way for younger workers to take over. The result would be a significant increase in unemployment, further stretching an already-frayed social safety net. The whole scheme is such a bad idea that Forbes, not exactly known as a mouthpiece for wild-eyed socialists, has condemned it.
It is safe to assume that Democrats running for office in places with lots of senior citizens (like Florida and Arizona) are going to sound the alarm, and ride this for all it's worth. Indeed, this alone could flip both of these states into the Democratic column. It's yet another example of the President's unwillingness to think about the medium- and long-term consequences of his actions. (Z)
The folks at Morning Consult have been busy, it would appear. Not a lot of good news for Donald Trump here; he's got a comfortable lead in just one state, and even that one is barely comfortable. Meanwhile, if you give Joe Biden the Clinton states, plus the ones here where his lead is outside the margin of error, you end up with the Electoral College tied 269-269 (assuming Nebraska and Maine shake out the same way they did in 2016). If you give Biden all the Clinton states, plus the states here where he is leading (putting aside North Carolina, where the two polls point in different directions), he wins 334-204. If you toss in North Carolina as well, he wins 349-189. (Z)
|Arizona||52%||42%||Aug 21||Aug 30||Morning Consult|
|Colorado||51%||41%||Aug 21||Aug 30||Morning Consult|
|Florida||49%||47%||Aug 21||Aug 30||Morning Consult|
|Georgia||49%||46%||Aug 21||Aug 30||Morning Consult|
|Michigan||48%||44%||Aug 28||Aug 29||PPP|
|Michigan||52%||42%||Aug 21||Aug 30||Morning Consult|
|Minnesota||50%||43%||Aug 21||Aug 30||Morning Consult|
|North Carolina||47%||49%||Aug 29||Aug 30||East Carolina U.|
|North Carolina||49%||47%||Aug 21||Aug 30||Morning Consult|
|Nevada||44%||39%||Aug 20||Aug 30||U. of Nevada|
|Ohio||45%||50%||Aug 21||Aug 30||Morning Consult|
|Pennsylvania||49%||45%||Aug 21||Aug 30||Morning Consult|
|Texas||47%||48%||Aug 21||Aug 30||Morning Consult|
|Wisconsin||52%||43%||Aug 21||Aug 30||Morning Consult|
Another poll making clear that Gary Peters is in the driver's seat. Meanwhile, this is the best poll Thom Tillis has gotten in a while, but it's probably just movement within the margin of error. On average, Cal Cunningham has a lead of about 3.5 points, which is likely how the race really stands. (Z)
|State||Democrat||D %||Republican||R %||Start||End||Pollster|
|Michigan||Gary Peters*||47%||John James||39%||Aug 28||Aug 29||PPP|
|North Carolina||Cal Cunningham||44%||Thom Tillis*||44%||Aug 29||Aug 30||East Carolina U.|
* Denotes incumbent
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Sep01 Biden Takes the Show on the Road
Sep01 Sanders Is All-In for Biden
Sep01 USPS Shenanigans Look to Be Backfiring on Trump
Sep01 New Voter Registrations in Swing States Favor Democrats
Sep01 Tuesday Is Book Day
Sep01 Legal Blotter: One Win, One Loss for Trump
Sep01 Today's Presidential Polls
Sep01 Today's Senate Polls
Aug31 Is There a Trump Bump?
Aug31 Trump Unleashes Twitter Barrage
Aug31 It Is Still All about the Base
Aug31 DNI John Ratcliffe Won't Brief Congress on Election Security Anymore
Aug31 A New Battleground: Yard-Sign Theft
Aug31 Meadows: We Are Not Going to Negotiate a Coronavirus Relief Bill
Aug31 Massachusetts Primary Is Tomorrow
Aug31 When Will the Election Be Called?
Aug31 Military Won't Get Involved in an Election Dispute
Aug31 Trump Keeps Putting Himself in Danger
Aug31 What Does 5 p.m. Mean, Actually?
Aug30 Sunday Mailbag
Aug29 Saturday Q&A
Aug29 Today's Presidential Polls
Aug28 And That's a Wrap
Aug28 In Kenosha, Trump Sees Opportunity
Aug28 Team Biden Finally Does Some Counter-programming
Aug28 This White House May Not Be Transparent, but Its Motives Are
Aug28 U.S. Chamber of Commerce Breaks Left
Aug28 Japanese PM Is Out
Aug28 COVID-19 Diaries: Stasis
Aug28 Today's Presidential Polls
Aug27 Conventional, Night Three
Aug27 No Convention Bounce for Biden
Aug27 Trump Goes Dark
Aug27 What Do Trump Supporters Care About?
Aug27 "Suburban Housewives" Aren't Buying What Trump Is Selling
Aug27 LeBron James Is Launching a Multimillion-Dollar Campaign to Recruit Poll Workers
Aug27 Hundreds of Thousands of Seniors in Nursing Homes May Not Be Able to Vote
Aug27 Michigan May Mail Absentee Ballot Application to All Registered Voters
Aug27 Kanye West Failed to Qualify for the November Ballot in Missouri
Aug27 Green Party Will Not Be on the Montana Ballot
Aug27 Stephanie Bice Will Face Kendra Horn in OK-05
Aug27 Elections Were Not Always Close
Aug27 Today's Presidential Polls
Aug27 Today's Senate Polls
Aug26 The Trumpman Show, Night Two
Aug26 RNC Lagging DNC in Ratings
Aug26 Melania Trump's Kumbayah Moment May Soon Fade
Aug26 Today's Republican Endorsements for Biden
Aug26 Trump Taps Chad Wolf for Permanent DHS Post